With so many different terms for vitamin B9 it can get a bit confusing, right?
Folate is essential for many functions in the body and is an important nutrient in the methylation process. Inadequate methylation has been linked to many disease states, including preeclampsia, miscarriage, neural tube defects and poor neonatal brain development.
When you conceive (woohoo) those tiny 4 cells start to multiply, BIG TIME! By the time you are 12 weeks along, those tiny 4 cells have multiplied to create all the cells needed for every organ in the body. And folate is one of the most important nutrients needed for this to happen.
Folate is often the generic named used when discussing vitamin B9. Folic acid is the term we use when taking a synthetic or man made version of folate. It’s called dietary folate when it is found in our food and folate is often the term used to cover the many other forms that vitamin B9 can be found.
When folic acid enters the body, it needs to be reduced to become metabolically active. First it is converted to dihydrofolate (DHF) and then tetrahydrofolate (THF) by an enzyme called dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR). Then THF can be converted to the biologically active L-Methylfolate. This process occurs with the enzyme methylenetetrahydrofolate (MTHFR). L-Methylfolate is needed for methyl donation, which then facilitates many enzymatic reactions in the body. MTHFR is the critical enzyme involved in the metabolism of folic acid.
Research has shown that there is a high incidence of genetic mutations which lowers the ability of MTHFR to function correctly. In this situation practitioners will often use a supplementation form of folate called 5-Methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF), which can enter the methylation cycle and “by pass” the need for the enzyme MTHFR. However, the jury is still out to prove its effectiveness. Therefore, many good quality supplement companies are adding 5-MTHF along with Folic Acid or other forms of folate for superior absorption and utilisation of this essential nutrient.
What is probably more important, is that you also have the co-factors needed to support the methylation cycle. Choline is a major methyl donor so can be considered just as important as folate. Vitamin B2, B6 and B12 are also very important nutrients to consider.
Natural medicine looks at the body as a whole, encompassing many different areas/nutrients for optimal health. We run into risks when we start looking into only one particular nutrient in isolation, you can’t bake a cake with only flour!
As always its important to determine your individual needs and receive professional advice if you need to supplement.